DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Jun) – After blaming the Philippines’ Juvenile Justice Law for the rising crimes involving children in Davao City, its controversial Mayor Rodrigo Duterte now called stupid the lawmakers behind the passage of that law that protects minors from imprisonment.
"Congressmen are really stupid for passing this law, I cannot understand why they allow the passage of this law when some of them are former mayors and governors who understand very well the problems it will cause to the public," Duterte said.
The law, authored by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, prohibits children, ages 15 years old and below, who committed crimes, to be incarcerated until they reach 18.
Instead the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) takes custody of the young offenders, but the government has no enough facilities to keep the children out of the street.
Duterte, a lawyer, said due to the passage of the Juvenile Justice Law, a number of teenagers in Davao City continue to commit crimes because they cannot be imprisoned.
”The police have no choice but to release these teenagers who commit crimes since they can be sued if they continue to imprison these people,” he said.
Duterte called on the parents to discipline their children before he imposes his own “brand of solution” to the problem.
”I tell you disciple your children or I will impose my own solution to the problem which I think will be very hurting on your part,” he warned.
Duterte previously said the law caused “headaches and problems” because offenders freely roam despite their criminal cases or charges against them.
“Some members of the judiciary and local government units in the country had observed the rise of street crimes after the passage of the law, he said.
Duterte urged lawmakers to amend the law, saying, it has many flaws. "Because of this law, teenagers who commit crimes are immediately released by the police,” he said.
Duterte’s stand on the Juvenile Justice Law has been largely criticized in Davao City by groups advocating children’s rights.
Critics told Duterte to implement a program that will help juvenile delinquents and put up more social centers that will address the problems pose by street children and criminalities involving minors.
Duterte has won a reelection in the May 14 national and local polls with her daughter Sarah, also a lawyer, as his vice mayor.
The party list group, Kabataan, said many minors who committed crimes had been executed in Davao City and urged the DSWD to do something about the safety of street children.
Karla Apat, the group’s vice president for Mindanao, said it is DSWD’s responsibility to ensure an efficient program in keeping the minors out of the streets.
”The DSWD has remained silent on the issue of minors being executed in the city. This is a systemic problem. If the government fails to address the basic social services needs of the people, more and more children will be pushed out of school and be involved in anti-social activities," Apat told the Mindanao Examiner.
Apat said blamed the government for failing to address juvenile delinquency in the country.
"Before criminalizing the youth offenders, the government must get to the bottom of delinquency which is the crisis on education and poverty," she said.
Apat did not say who were behind the killing of the children or whether it was connected to gang war or summary executions, which Davao City is notoriously known for.
Hundreds of criminals and people with police records had been executed the past years in Davao City. Families and relatives of those killed have implicated the authorities. (Romy Bwaga and Juan Magtanggol)